Say what you will about Illinois, and the seemingly dire state of our state, but at least travel guides aren’t telling people to stay outside our borders.
Missouri made Illinois headlines this week when news broke that Fodor’s Travel Guide in November had put the state on its list of places to avoid traveling to in 2018 — among Myanmar, because of human rights violations, and Mount Everest, steadily gaining a reputation as the world’s tallest trash can.
Missouri is in the company of Myanmar and Cuba on a travel guide’s list of places to not visit in 2018.
So, why is my home state among these no-go destinations? It’s not about St. Louis’ controversial style of pizza.
Among Fodor’s reasons for discouraging travel to our western neighbor is the passage of SB 43, which critics say makes it harder to sue an employer for discrimination. The NAACP also issued a travel warning back in June in response to that same bill’s passage. In its statement about the travel advisory, the NAACP warned of “looming danger” in the state after the passage of the bill, and also mentioned several incidents of violence and discrimination against people of color in the state of Missouri.
Many of those same incidents made their way into Fodor’s explanation of its travel advisory: A Missouri state representative argued last year that homosexuals aren’t human, a tourist who ran out of gas in Missouri was later found murdered in his jail cell without ever having actually been arrested, and two men were shot outside of Kansas City on suspicion of being Muslim (although, a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article points out, that happened on the Kansas side).
I’m a (formerly, somewhat) proud Missourian. I grew up in the shadow of the arch, in a bellwether swing state where when I voted for the first time at 18, my vote counted. When I was growing up, it felt like my city was growing, too. I remember riding the Metrolink train on the first day it opened, because my dad was excited public transportation was expanding in our city. (OK, our train did get stuck in a tunnel for hours on that first ride, but hey, growing pains!) At my high school, I was one of the students who participated in a school-wide walkout to encourage the continuation of the desegregation program that bused African-American kids from the city of St. Louis to our school in the county seat. Most summers, I floated the spring-fed, crystal-clear, always-cool-even-in-the-dead-heat-of-the-summertime waters of the Current River in the Missouri Ozarks.
I've biked and camped along the KT Trail, the bicycle trail that spans the width of the state, and cozied up with small-town locals on stops along the way.
I still dream about the No. 19 vermicelli on the menu at Me Kong Deli, one of the Vietnamese restaurants on South Grand, a St. Louis street known for its diverse offerings of restaurants and bars. St. Louis is home to interesting pockets of counter-culture, like the Lemp Arts Center, where I spent my teenage years moshing at punk shows, and the Grove, a gentrified, gay-friendly, hip strip of bars, world cuisine restaurants and cute vintage clothing boutiques. And, St. Louis-style pizza is delicious. I don’t care what anyone says.
On a vacation in Canada this past summer, I met a couple of Australians who were traveling to St. Louis the next week, and spent time with them making lists of places they should go for great craft beer and fun touristy activities. I hate to think people would miss out on some of the shining spots of my — I admit, troubled at times — Midwestern home.
But, I also lived in Missouri inside a white body. Many of the reasons Fodor’s discouraged travel to the state stem from a pattern of racial discrimination, which also put Missouri in national headlines during protests following the 2014 killing of a black teen at the hands of a white Ferguson police officer, and in 2015 during protests after several racist incidents at the University of Missouri, my alma mater.
When I heard a swastika was drawn in a University of Missouri residence hall bathroom with human feces, I wasn’t surprised. When I heard the M…
In the same neighborhood in suburban St. Louis where I felt safe enough to run around barefoot all hours of the day and night as a child, my brothers had a very different experience.
I was invisible to the police in my parents’ neighborhood. My biracial half-brothers were anything but. They were stopped often, accused and questioned and searched and manhandled — from the time they were little kids, to teenagers, to young men.
Along with the list of places to avoid, Fodor’s offered this: “...sometimes you have to say no to the ones you love in hopes that they can recover, reconsider, or reform.”
As much as it breaks my heart to see would-be visitors avoid a place where I’ve known so much joy, I hope it’s a wake-up call to the Show-Me State.
ALEE QUICK is digital editor of The Southern. Her columns include her own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinion or editorial position of The Southern. She can be reached at email@example.com or 618-351-5807. Follow her on Twitter: @the_quickness